20th March

The Experiment

I was an experiment.

I knew this suddenly and intuitively. How old was I, seven, eight? Lying on the floor, playing with some plastic soldiers, I saw the shadow of my hand pass over them. I moved my hand back. This time I did not so much see the shadow as feel it, as if I were one of those soldiers and a dark, terrible force – of which he was ignorant but had, just then, some imperfect perception – had disturbed the air he breathed.

Those soldiers were inanimate, I understood this, yet alive to me: I could and did make them live. And somehow they – or one of them at least – had become conscious of my life-giving, my power.

The next thing I understood was that I was being watched. I picked up a man with a rifle slung on his back, about to throw a grenade. His face betrayed no knowledge of me: he was intent only on the act of throwing. I replaced him, and continued to play studiously as if nothing had changed. I learned from that soldier not to let them see that I knew.

Them. Yes, there were several, wherever or whoever they were, and I was their experiment. Years later I would see the film The Truman Show and recognise in its artificial construct something like the world as I began to perceive it at that moment. But my situation was not an entertainment for millions of viewers, nor would I be able to find an exit, a door out of that artifice into reality. This was reality, and I was in it. My bodily functions, my behaviour at home and at school, my sleep patterns and mood changes – everything was being captured and analysed. But could they access my thoughts? I didn’t think so. I chose to operate on the basis that they couldn’t.

I am an adult now, and have put away childish things. I have also become so skilled at the game of bluff which commenced that day that I often completely forget about it. But then some small thing reminds me. The experiment continues. They think they are still running it, but they are wrong.

Reader: James Robertson
Fiddle: Aidan O'Rourke
Harmonium: Kit Downes
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